Ukraine and Russia send conflicting statements over a possible ceasefire, sowing confusion over the Ukraine conflict on the eve of a NATO summit. Mana Rabiee reports.
This is what residents in the eastern Ukrainian village of Spartak woke up to, after a night of shelling. Buildings like the local school...destroyed or pot-marked. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HEADTEACHER, LYUDMILA VANINA, SAYING: "It all happened last night, last time there was just a little bit, but now everything, even the canteen..." For weeks, the village has been caught in the crossfire of a months-long war between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Many have already fled, leaving behind a mixture of the elderly and the proud. SOUNDBITE: UNIDENTIFIED MAN POINTS, SAYING: "It strikes and then we just go outside and then it strikes again." There's confusion around talk of a possible ceasefire. Russia, which Ukraine and the west believe is funding the rebels, says steps towards peace have been agreed to but not an actual truce. Furthering the confusion, Moscow announced huge military exercises for later this month. In Estonia on the eve of a NATO summit in Whales, U.S. President Barack Obama urged the security alliance to help strengthen Ukraine's military, to counter what he said was Russian aggression. SOUNDBITE: U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "Ukraine needs more than words. NATO needs to make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernize and strengthen its security forces. And by they way, we have to do more to help other NATO partners, including Georgia and Moldova, strengthen their defenses as well." In Ukraine's southeastern port city of Mariupol, residents brace for a possible onslaught by rebels. These factory workers vow to defend their city from fighters who are only a short distance away. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HEAD OF SMELTERS UNIT, ALEXANDER LARIONOV, SAYING: "There are tanks just about 20 kilometers away from here. We are sending slabs, digging bunkers....We're trying to put some sort of a barrier against those forces who come uninvited to our city." Despite the earlier confusion over a ceasefire, Russian President Vladimir Putin says Kiev and Moscow are now "very close" in their views on ending the violence. A deal to stop the fighting could be reached this week, he said. He's called for Ukraine to pull its troops back and rebels to cease their offensive operations.